Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Alaska Big Thaw Retreat



SCBWI Alaska’s 2nd Annual

Alaska Big Thaw Retreat


Click here to Register


For all Authors: Picture Book, Middle Grade, Young Adult, 

Adult Literature, and Illustrators

May 11-13, 2018

At the Stunning Knik River Lodge

in Palmer, AK, only an hour from Anchorage

Workshops by Stephen Barr of Writers House Lit. Agency

Optional peer critique groups and professional manuscript reviews

Quiet time to write and illustrate

AK cuisine, two-person cabins, a classroom yurt with a wood burning stove, amazing views

Just bring a desire to improve your craft and a sense of adventure,

And you’re ready for the


Fees start at only $145 without lodging / $245 with lodging (for SCBWI members)
See registration page for additional fees and options

Space Limited – Early Bird Discount Ends Feb 28, 2018


Click here to Register


Also available as an add-on, or stand-alone

Sunday, May 13, 2018
1-4 PM
With Stephen Barr of Writers House Lit. Agency


Special Guest Stephen Barr of Writers House Lit. Agency Writers House has been around for over forty years, and in addition to being an actual house (it’s true! Check our website!), it’s one of the largest literary agencies in the industry, representing fiction and non-fiction of every stripe.

I’ve been with Writers House for a little over nine years now, and while I’m not an actual house (couldn’t get the permits), I’m a pretty omnivorous agent. At the moment, I’ve got a particular hankering for intricate, heart-on-its-sleeve, voice-abundant YA like King Dork or The Highest Tide (bonus points for unrequited love stories!); audacious, experimental YA mysteries or fantasies that handcuff humor and tragedy to the same radiator; middle grade that takes on heavy themes with a light, optimistic, eccentric touch; sweet and/or silly and/or heartbreaking picture books from adventurous author/illustrators; unexpected memoirs with itchy voices; narrative non-fiction that tackles hard-to-tackle issues; and any fiction that rewards the reader line-by-line and gets to know at least one character really, really well (recent favorites include Fourth of July Creek, & Sons, Jeff In Venice, The Lazarus Project, Diary of a Bad Year, Horns, and Skippy Dies).

I’m also willing to be a sucker for detective stories that bend reality; ghost stories that blow reality to hell; Secret Book X (I don’t know what Secret Book X is, but suffice it to say, I’m open to the occasional curveball).

I’m still within the first ten years of building my list, and I have almost zero emotional baggage, so I’m ready to fall in love (with your book)!



Retreat Schedule:

FRIDAY 5/11/18  

4:00 – 5:00 PM  Check-in
5:00 – 5:45 PM Kind, Clear, and Qualitative Critiques: prepping for the weekend
Workshop for all authors with Jenn Funk Weber  (yurt)
5:45 – 6:00 PM  Welcome & Announcements (yurt)
6:00 — 7:00 PM Dreams, Demons, and Drive when being Creative
Workshop for all authors with Stephen Barr (yurt)
7:00 — 8:30 PM Dinner at Lodge
8:30 — ???   PM Open mic with wine, cocoa, mulled cider, and you! (yurt)                         

SATURDAY 5/12/18

7:00  — 8:45 AM Breakfast at the lodge
9:00 – 10:00 AM First Pages workshop for all authors with Stephen Barr – Bring up to 200 words of the beginning of a story to be read out loud – would Stephen read on? (yurt)
10:30 AM12 PM Optional peer critique group session 1 or writing time on your own (yurt or location of groups choosing, such as someone’s cabin)
12:00 – 2:30 PM Lunch, served in yurt, take outside if weather cooperates
Time to write, walk, nap, and dream

2) Optional peer critique group session 2  (first half) or writing time on your own

3:45 – 4:45 PM 1) ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE: Treating your story’s setting as a main character in your novel w/ Stephen Barr (yurt)

2) Optional peer critique group session 2 (first half) or writing time on your own

5:00 – 6:00 PM Optional peer critique group session 2 (second half if needed)
6:00 PM Dinner on your own (in lodge if you requested reservations when you registered)
8:00 PM Open mic: Read your improved first page? Something new? Inspirational blog post? Surprise us! Pot luck desserts and drinks (yurt)

SUNDAY 5/13/18  

7:00  — 8:45 AM Breakfast in lodge
9:00 — 10:00 AM Workshop for all authors: Plotting for Pantsers and Procrastinators with Stefanie Tatalias (yurt)
10:00 – 11:00 AM Q & A with Stephen Barr (yurt)
11:00 AM Check out, but you can stay writing in the yurt!
1:00 — 4:00 PM Illustrators Intensive: SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW: How to Push Your Art to Evolve with Stephen Barr (yurt) (requires separate registration)    

Illustrators Intensive

Something Old, Something New: How to Push Your Art to Evolve: Every project, big or small, is an opportunity to sharpen your old skills and develop new ones at the same time.  But how can you rely on your strengths without inhibiting your stylistic evolution?  Agent Stephen Barr will walk through several of his clients’ progressions as artists and preach the importance of staying comfortable while leaving your comfort zone.

The illustration “assignment” from Stephen is to be completed and brought with you to the retreat.  It is as follows:

  • 1) choose an easy subject to draw using the medium they’re most comfortable with
  • 2) and then draw the same subject again using the medium they’re least comfortable with
  • 3) and then draw a difficult subject using the medium they’re least comfortable with
  • 4) and then draw the same difficult subject using the medium they’re most comfortable with



Peer Critique Groups: These optional critique groups will meet twice on Saturday with time for revision in between. Highly recommended that you submit your manuscript ahead of time. You can also bring your pages with you, but since the group must read your work on the spot, there will be less time to discuss it at the first critique meeting. Don’t be intimidated if you’re not familiar with critiquing, or you have critique-fear. We will be having a how-to-critique workshop Friday, May 11th, 5 pm. 

You will need to read each of your assigned group’s pages before the retreat. There will be 3-5 people in your group. By reading the work and preparing a critique before, you will have more time to discuss each other’s work at the critique.

We will assign critique groups according to the target audience: picture and chapter books; middle grade; young adult; and adult. So be sure to indicate your your target audience as explained below.

You will receive your peer-group’s pages by April 7th, 2018.

See below for critiquing instructions.

Professional Manuscript Review with Stephen Barr: Select this option for at registration. Send in your material before the retreat, receive your written review on Friday, then have fifteen minutes one-on-one with Stephen to discuss his comments. See formatting and submission instructions below.

Cost: from $50 for 10 pages or $100 for 20 pages. Send in your material by April 1, 2018. No fooling! No late submissions will be accepted; and no refunds will be given for missing the due date. Please see below on how to format your pages and where to submit.

Critique by PEER and PROFESSIONAL? Yes! You can do both! Submit the same or different pages.

Cabin, shared or private: All cabins have a two queen beds and you will be assigned a same-gender cabin-mate unless you: 1) request a particular cabin-mate (other person must send similar email); 2) pay private-cabin supplement when registering. If you choose this option, you are welcome to bring a guest who is not attending the retreat to share your room (no meals provided).

Meals: ​Friday night dinner, Saturday breakfast and lunch, and Sunday breakfast are included in your registration fee. Saturday Dinner is NOT included. See below. If you have severe food allergies or sensitivities, we recommend bringing your own food to the retreat.

Friday night dinner: included for all attendees, including day-only attendees. Saturday lunch is also included for day-only attendees, but no breakfasts.

Saturday night dinner reservation: Saturday night dinner is on-your-own. You can eat at the lodge, but you will need a reservation. If you select this option at registration, we will make the reservation for you. The village of Palmer is 25 minutes away and has a few good restaurants.

Saturday night dessert and refreshment potluck: Surprise us!

Snacks: Feel free to bring your favorite snacks for yourself, and if you wish, some to share with the group.

Open mic: Get ready to let your voice loose on Friday and Saturday evening. Bring something you’re been working on, a favorite story excerpt, picture book, poem…anything goes. Want to sing? Play the fiddle? Share with us your hidden talent.

​Lodging: ​ The cabins are cute and well-equipped with two queen beds, their own bathroom and shower,  small fridge, coffe maker, heaters, fresh linens and towels, and a porch overlooking the valley below and the mountains rising up on the other side.

​Get to Know You Activity:​ Please bring an item to the retreat that represents something you like to do outside of your writing. 

REFUND POLICY: There is a $50 refund charge for any cancellation on or before March 31, 2017. Any cancellation after March 31, 2018 will be subject to a $100 cancellation fee.


How to Format Your Manuscript for Peer Critique and Professional Manuscript Review




Standard “submission” format or ALL Critiques:

  • For Peer Critique 10 pages, plus, if you choose, an additional one-page synopsis OR query letter
  • For manuscript review with STEPHEN BARR 10 pages or 20 pages (depending on what you chose at registration), plus, if you choose, an additional one-page synopsis OR query letter)

Breathe…it seems like a lot, but it’s easy and good practice as it’s all industry standard!

  • 12 pt font, new times roman
  • 1 inch margins
  • double spaced (no cheating, it’s obvious)
  • 1/2 way down first page, centered, TITLE OF BOOK
    by (insert your Name)
  • Each new chapter begins 1/3 way down page
  • Upper left of first page:
    Your Name
    Your Address
    Telephone, or email


  • Up to four low-res images (72 dpi)
  • Images in a PDF
  • Labeled with your name
  • Author/illustrators with a dummy should submit the text as one doc, and the dummy as a PDF. No extra charge for reviewing your dummy.

How to Submit

  • Email Alaska-RA@
  • Put in subject line: Conference material
  • Attach your material as a Doc, Docx, or PDF
  • Label the file like this: yourname_title, so that your file’s label looks like: famousauthor_Masterpiece.docx
    • If your title is long, shorten it to the most important word(s) such as: Tatalias_Fox


In the body of your your email, indicate:

  • Your name
  • PEER CRITIQUE or PROFESSIONAL REVIEW (if both, submit both with this info for each)
  • Age of your target audience (picture and chapter books; middle grade; young adult; or adult)